BY KELLY SWAN | February 28, 2018

From February 11-18, 2018, the Jesuit and Catholic network in the United States captured the spirit of Valentine’s Day by showing love to their neighbor—regardless of immigration status.

The Love Your Neighbor Campaign, facilitated by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, united more than 5,000 individuals in efforts to support, advocate with, and affirm the dignity of those who migrate.  

A component of the Campaign for Hospitality, a two-year initiative aimed at building a more just and welcoming culture toward those who migrate, Love Your Neighbor focused on action, advocacy, and support.

Campaign actions included a fair-trade valentine “chocolategram” option in collaboration with Equal Exchange, a social media campaign utilizing #MigrantsWelcome, and a valentine-writing initiative to Congressional members throughout the U.S.

On Valentine’s Day volunteers from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a Jesuit parish and ISN member institution in Washington, D.C., partnered with ISN to deliver nearly 200 valentines to the offices of U.S. senators and representatives who are graduates of Jesuit schools or serve a district or state in which a Jesuit institution is located.

Christine Brown, a parishioner at Holy Trinity, reflected on her experience of delivering valentines on what also happened to be the first day of Lent: “One of the comforts I wanted to give up for Lent was my daily routine and flex time. Walking through the halls of Congress on behalf of Holy Trinity parishioners who took time to sign the valentines felt like a better use of that time.”

She went on to share that “every staff person I encountered at each office was respectful and appreciative of the valentine delivery. A few had time to listen to our purpose of keeping migrants in mind on this St. Valentine’s Day as ‘We Love Thy Neighbor’ through our legislative decisions. A few of them opened it in front of me and even more admired the sticker.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church staff and parishioners, including Christine Brown (second from right) delivered “Love Your Neighbor” Valentines to Congress.

Hundreds of additional valentines were created and delivered via mail, fax, or in-person by students, faculty, staff, and parishioners at Jesuit and other Catholic high schools, colleges, universities, and parishes.

“This Lent, we do not want to just put on a spectacle and bore people with refugee facts for these forty days; we want to change minds,” said Christian Conte, a freshman at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia. “The Bible is a migration story. Jesus was a migrant, and nearby villages welcomed this stranger with open arms, hearts, and minds. Today, the topic of migration, immigration, and refugees has become too political, and many Christians and Catholics alike are forgetting what Pope Francis and the Catholic church support. Pope Francis encourages world-power countries, such as the United States, to build bridges instead of walls.”

Valentines included many personal stories from individuals directly affected by immigration policy, or who support peers, neighbors, and community members who have immigrated.

Henry Dowd, a freshman at Loyola Blakefield, a Jesuit high school in Maryland, wrote: “I come from a family of immigrants. My mother emigrated from Brazil. My father’s family is originally from Ireland. With the laws that our current president wants to implement, neither of them would have been able to come to America. I would not have ever been born. I implore you to make  Maryland a place of equality and safety for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

Kelly Swan

Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and is the mother of four energetic children. Prior to her time at ISN, Kelly worked in the areas of parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey.

BY ISN STAFF | February 14, 2018

Nearly 200 members of Congress received a Valentine today, February 14, 2018, from the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN), inviting them to consider how they can “love their neighbor,” including those who are immigrants and refugees. The Valentines arrive to Capitol Hill as U.S. Senators debate immigration proposals, including a solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, offered by President Trump as well Senate members of both parties.  

Volunteers from Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a Jesuit parish and ISN member institution in Washington, D.C., partnered with ISN to deliver the Valentines to the offices of U.S. senators and representatives who are graduates of Jesuit schools or serve a district or state in which a Jesuit institution is located.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church staff and parishioners delivered “Love Your Neighbor” Valentines to Congress.

The message in the Valentines: Roses are red, Violets are blue. Our faith teaches us to love our neighbor, you should too!

Included with each Valentine was a cover letter that called on members to work for compassionate immigration policies that support family unity, provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented young people, and promote humane and just treatment of those who migrate. It also encouraged Congress to rethink policy proposals that unnecessarily militarize the border and increase the vulnerability of individuals fleeing their countries in search of safety.

Fr. Donald McMillan, S.J., associate pastor at the Jesuit Parish of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill, MA, delivers a “Love Your Neighbor” Valentine to Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey.

The effort on Capitol Hill is a part of ISN’s  “Love Your Neighbor Campaign,” a Valentine’s Day-centered initiative designed to support those who migrate. Institutions across the country, including Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson, MD; Cristo Rey New York High School in New York City; and The University of Scranton, in Scranton, PA, will create and deliver Valentines to district offices in their home states.

“While Valentine’s Day is often a chance to celebrate one’s love for that special someone,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in a cover letter that was included with the Valentines, “It is a good time to also consider how we as a country show our love for our neighbors, including immigrant and refugee members of our communities — particularly as Congress debates the future for DACA recipients and immigrant families.”

Share the love: send your own Valentine’s Day message to your elected officials.